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A year later, Blind Pilot made it all the way to the Mexican border, and the duo had expanded to a quartet with Luke Ydstie and Kati Claborn along for the ride. The bikes are retired for now in favor of an old tour bus. The band's sound has matured, sounding less regional, less pedal-powered and yearning, and more fleet, ambitious and pop-lit, a sound captured in the Tucker Martine-produced album We Are the Tide.
"He's incredible," Nebeker says of Martine. "He and his wife Laura Veirs are the super couple of the music scene in Portland. I've loved Laura's records for years before I knew he was the one recording them. He's really thoughtful, but he lets the process unfold in a natural way. Rather than leaving options where you can go back and fix things digitally, everything is analog, and so all the decisions have to be made when you're mixing. He'll set it up and have you listen to it, suggest changes, but then that's it. It's like a performance."
If there's a theme to We Are the Tide and to Blind Pilot's music as a whole, it's that idea of life and music as performance — and a performance that only comes around once. How does a band, or a person for that matter, make the most of it?
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On one of We Are the Tide's best fusions of folk and pop music, the song "Just One," Nebeker sings, "If I could have known then we were dying to get gone/I can't believe we get just one." A band such as Blind Pilot may or may not get just one chance, but it sounds committed to making any and all of its chances count.
"I don't know if I've ever thought about those songs strung together in that way," Nebeker says. "But that is an idea I think about, and sometimes it troubles me enough to write a song about it."